Two Seniors Named Top Scholars in National Science Talent Search

Two members of Class I—Andrew Zhang and Chris Zhu—were named among the country’s top 300 scholars in the 79th Regeneron Science Talent Search (STS), the nation’s oldest and most prestigious science and math competition for high school seniors. Chris and Andrew were selected from a pool of nearly 2,000 students from 659 high schools across 49 states. Regeneron STS selects these 300 scholars based on their “exceptional research skills, commitment to academics, innovative thinking, and promise as scientists.” Each of these 300 scholars receive $2,000 for this recognition, and their schools also receive $2,000 in funding for STEM-related activities.

Both Chris and Andrew developed their research as part of MIT PRIMES, MIT’s selective after-school research program for high school students. Andrew’s project, titled An Explainable Machine Learning Platform for Antimicrobial Resistance Prediction and Resistance Gene Identification, uses deep learning and whole genome sequence data to create a framework to predict Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR). A global health crisis, AMR—or the ability of bacteria to resist antibiotics—kills millions of people each year. Andrew’s model is able to predict AMR in less than a second with 98% accuracy. Back in May, his project won first place at the Massachusetts Science and Engineering Fair.

Chris’s project is titled Enumerating Permutations and Rim Hooks Characterized by Double Descent Sets. His project was inspired by a joint paper published in 2017 by five American researchers, which presented recursions and algebraic properties of descent polynomials. Chris’s work extended this research into a new pattern of descents and proposed a recursion, as well as several new theorems for this new pattern by classifying number sequences as geometric diagrams. Prior to his Regeneron STS recognition, Chris was awarded a top prize in the Global Final competition of S.T. Yau High School Science Awards at Tsinghua University in Beijing, China.

Since its founding, the Regeneron STS boasts alumni who have gone on to receive 11 National Medals of Science, 5 Breakthrough Prizes, 21 MacArthur Foundation Fellowships, 2 Fields Medals, and 13 Nobel Prizes. Maya Ajmera, president and CEO of the organization that hosts the competition, had this to say about the young minds involved in STS: “We are inspired by the incredible energy and passion of every scholar who is using research to make the world a better place… These young students will be the key to unlocking solutions to many of our world’s most pressing challenges.”